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Papo Vazquez and Cedar Walton at The Charlie Parker Jazz Festival, NYC

Ernest Barteldes By

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Papo Vazquez and Cedar Walton
Charlie Parker Jazz Festival
Tompkins Square Park, New York City
August 30, 2009

The weather did not threaten the second day of music at the annual Charlie Parker Jazz Festival in Manhattan's Tompkins Square Park. The sun shone through all day, treating fans and musicians alike to an afternoon of resplendent music.

Trombonist Papo Vazquez kicked off his set with his 8-piece Pirates Troubadours ensemble with a complex, yet highly improvised, overture in which he played a bullhorn. It soon was clear that he would not limit himself to Latin jazz, instead showcasing the diverse music he's made over his longtime career as a musician, arranger and bandleader. He then picked up his trombone, and initiated an Afro-Latin tune in which all of his bandmembers had a chance to improvise freely. Next was "Oasis," a song Vazquez announced as related to the servicemen and women currently in the Middle East. The tune, which was structured in an odd meter, was generously infused with elements of Arabic music.

The band then returned to Latin territory with "Sol Tropical," a tune that had numerous people dancing. One of its highlights was a call-and-response vocal playfully exchanged between the leader and the audience. The band then switched gears with "Mangalarga," a more experimental number, though Vazquez soon revealed his softer side with the short ballad "City of Brotherly Love," an homage to his hometown of Philadelphia. Dancer Julia Gutierrez joined the ensemble for the finale, a heavily percussive number with odd tempo changes.

After a short break, the legendary pianist Cedar Walton took the stage with his quartet, starting with an up-tempo straight-ahead number, followed by several appealing tunes, including a bluesy number that elicited from the veteran pianist a youthful, dexterous solo. On another composition he acknowledged the neighborhood's strong Latin presence on a complex tune with a strong Brazilian vibe.

Walton closed with his bluesy "Holy Land," a tune featured on his 1973 live CD Naima (Savoy Jazz, 1973/2003). On this extended version, all the musicians had a chance to showcase their abilities—but none more than Walton himself, who played a masterful solo that drew animated applause from the entire audience.


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